PPP Legislators Under Criticism As Forced Conversion Bill Rejected In Sindh Assembly

PPP Legislators Under Criticism As Forced Conversion Bill Rejected In Sindh Assembly

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) turned down a bill against forced conversions in the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday.

Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) Member of Provincial Assembly Nand Kumar Goklani moved the Criminal Law (protection of minorities) Bill in the assembly.

This is the second time a bill against forced conversions has failed to completely go through in the Sindh Assembly. In November 2016, the Sindh Assembly had introduced a bill of a similar nature after complaints of forced conversions by the Hindu community.

The bill received much praise in the assembly and was passed unanimously. However, following protests by religious parties against the legislation, the PPP withdrew its support to the bill.

A report in Express Tribune quoted a senior official of the Sindh government as saying that after the bill was passed in 2016, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq met with PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and conveyed the grievances of religious parties and the Council of Islamic Ideology. Subsequently, the PPP leadership sent a message to Sindh Governor Justice (Retd) Saeeduzaman Siddiqui, asking him not to ratify the bill.

The governor asked the Sindh assembly to ‘revisit’ the bill, particularly objecting over the clause that denounced the conversion of minor girls.

At that time, Goklani attempted to redraft the bill after consultations with law experts. He submitted a revised copy of the bill this Tuesday.

Presenting the bill in the assembly, Goklani stated, “I have moved the revised bill and will appreciate it if you kindly introduce it and refer it to the standing committee for feedback.”

Sindh Assembly speaker Agha Siraj Durrani asked Sindh Local Government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah about the government’s response to the bill, who said that because the bill had already been passed in 2016 and had been rejected by the governor, the cabinet’s position was required to introduce the bill again.

A member of the GDA said that the governor’s objections had been taken care off and hence there was not a need to refer the bill to the cabinet, further suggesting that the bill be referred to the standing committee or a special committee to review it.

However, his recommendation was rejected by the speaker who insisted that the bill be referred to the provincial cabinet.

The speaker stated, “If you will not agree to refer the bill [to the cabinet], I will then put it to voting in house, after which you will not be able to move it again.”

The members of the assembly then voted on the bill and it was rejected. A majority from the treasury benches voted against the bill.

Goklani, in his comments to media, stated that the rejection of the bill had exposed the lawmakers of the PPP-led government.

He said that the PPP-led government should stop ‘staging dramas’ whereby they celebrate Diwali, Holi and other festivals of the Hindus. He added that they should stop proclaiming themselves as the champions of minority rights.

He further added, “Our girls are being kidnapped and converted and I have been struggling for the past few years to pass a law against the menace, but today, the Sindh government has proved that it is unwilling to address the issue.”

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